Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cataloging your stamp Collection....

Normally I would just throw out a little bit form one of our many great threads at Stamp Bears and invite you in to read more. However a recent write up by our member Ross TO simply was too thorough to attempt this with.

Ross TO writes

[quote]Why catalogue your collection in the first place? Well there are a few reasons, first off, if you have a catalogue of what is in your possession you are less likely to mistakenly buy duplicates of a stamp, which is unless you specifically want to. Also your insurance company may want the list for your household insurance. Some collections out there require a rider on the home owner’s policy and to get such your insurer will need an inventory of what is there. Lastly in the event of your demise (hopefully that is a long long time away) you executor is saved the hassle of dealing with that side of your estate. 

So you got all those piles of stamps we talked about in my previous posting into your albums. Great, now you can show off them to fellow collectors and friends. Well, actually you are not near done yet. Remember that catalogue you got out to help sort out those stamps? Well it shows not only the stamp in there, but sometimes it show variants to that stamp as well as grades. Right now you have all one type of stamp in your albums as well as your stock binders (I am sticking with this so please exchange book for binder if you went that route). There are, as we are aware, both mint and used stamps. However there are grades to stamps that you may have noticed in your catalogue. They are as follows

NH – Never Hinged
H – Hinged 
LH – Lightly Hinged
EF – Extremely fine
VF – Very fine
F – Fine
VG – Very good
G – Good

So maybe you should sort them by grade. Oops, how in blazes are you supposed to do that. Well grades are a relative evaluation of the front and back of a stamp. There are whole articles that are written about it and as I am nowhere near an expert, I will leave that discussion to them. Suffice to say you have sorted your collection into those classes. In a nutshell the definitions are as follows

NH – this is for mint stamps only and is the preferred way collecting mint stamps. However most older issues are difficult to find in this condition and a premium of catalogue value will be added.
H – a hinge was attached to this stamp and may have remnants still remaining on the back of this mint copy
LH – this mint stamp was hinged in the past, however the hinge mark is minimal if not almost non-existent
EF – basically a perfect stamp. This stamp is centered and free of any marks or other imperfections.
VF – almost perfectly centered. This stamp should also be free or any marks or other imperfections
F – usually off centre with one or more edges of the image almost touching the edges of the perforations or cut for those old stamps there were not perforated. Will have a minor mark or imperfection.
VG – a stamp that is definitely off centre to the point of having the image cut into by the perfs. There will be noticeable marks or imperfections 
G – definitely only a stamp you will keep for a filler. These stamps are damaged and are only used to fill in a place in your collection till you can find a better copy in better condition.

Next, come the real fun part of the hobby, the part where you get to used those cool (okay I can be a bit sarcastic occasionally), tools you got. First off there is that odonotmeter (okay I just HAD to use that term once, aka perf gauge). The edges of the stamp have perforations and as such they can be counted. The gauge helps here as it is a measurement of the number of perfs over a 2cm length. The reason we check perf on some stamps is that there are sometimes different variants of a stamp released that are perforated differently than others in the same series. When you have large number of stamps to go through this can be somewhat time consuming, fortunately only a few stamps have differing perforations and your catalogue will tell you which ones do. So you don’t have to check every stamp in your collection.

Next comes that UV light you grabbed. You may have already used it and seen some highlighted areas on your stamps. Stamps are coated with phosphorescence to help the sorting/cancellation machines work their way through the millions of letters a day the post office deals with. However, sometimes there are errors with all those phosphor bands (called tags). Tagging errors are one of the reason you have that lovely little black light. Others are differing paper types. Some stamps can come on multiple different papers as well as tags. One series that was released in Canada has 4 differing papers and 4 or 5 tagging types as well as 2 or 3 perf variants. You will be able to see most of this with that UV light and perf gauge. 

Another tool that you may have in your philatelic toolbox is a watermark detector. This tool is used to check for watermarks on the backs of some stamps. Fortunately that catalogue you have will tell you if the stamps you have are watermarked or not. Lastly comes the magnifying glass or loupe that you purchased. I am not going to go into errors on stamps which are one of the main reasons you have this. Suffice to say over time you will need this more and more as you investigate your stamps for errors or printing differences. Printing differences sometimes require you to check out the stamp with your magnifying glass and there are usually notations in your reference materials that will tell you what to look for. 

Having done all this, what now? Well this is where cataloguing your collection comes into play. You can use software that is designed specifically for cataloguing collections. There are a few out there and I will not recommend one over the other. If you are an ambitious person you can write a database program that will help you store information on your collection or you can use a spreadsheet program. I personally use a software package that includes not only information on my stamp, but when and from who I purchased it from and images of the stamp in question. Warning, stamp inventory software can be pricy. If you get a copy of a software package that includes the images of the stamps you will have a VERY large program. One that I sampled included over 100,000 images and was almost 2gb in size. Took quite a while to download. I find the images useful LOL in another package that I finally bought. 

Back to those stock binders. So you now have them all sorted in a logical order by catalogue number (including variants) and quality. Now you are getting somewhere. One last thing I do is create tags in an excel spreadsheet that includes all the pertinent information about that particular stamp. Information that is printed on the tag is as follows

Catalogue Number (eventually both Scott and Stanley Gibbons)
Die lot or other information

This gives me enough information per section of my stock books to be able to accurately sort out everything so that I have a complete idea of what belongs where. I will include some scans of the pages in question so that you can have an idea of what the final product will look like. Mind you, you will have to give me some time here as I am still going through everything to label my collection correctly.

So, now you have your collection organized and catalogued... go on out and buy some more stamps Wink[/quote]

Now this conversation may develop further and then again it may not. But either way our Beginners Corner is growing with more great information every week, and there is always room for questions!! 

Stop by and talk about your experience with the great members at Stamp Bears. 

As Always Happy Stamping!! 


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